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Damaging Discards Could Feed Aquaculture

SCOTLAND, UK - Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson has hit out at the practice of discarding of fish at sea after a British trawler caused an international incident after being filmed dumping cod and other white fish in the UK sector of the North Sea.

According to FishUpdate, the Conservative MEP said today that the incident has once again illustrated the 'abhorrence of this disastrous practice which is still legal in EU waters and insisted upon by the European Commission. In response to the action he claimed that fish dicards could be sold to the aquaculture industry instead.

"The fishmeal industry would be prepared to pay for such un-commercial fish at a price of around £60 a tonne"
Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson

"More than 1 million tonnes of healthy fish are dumped dead back into the sea each year in EU waters under current fisheries management rules. Many fishermen in the UK's whitefish fleet, who target cod, haddock, prawns etc., admit that discards can often account for more than of their catch!"

The European Parliament recently approved a report which will seek to phase out the practice of discards over a period of ten years, but is this is a case of too little, too late?

"A much better system of management would be to rely solely on a 'days at sea' policy combined with a system of maximum sustainable yields (MSY), where fishermen could land everything they catch in the 10 or 12 days a month they are allowed to fish." Mr Stevenson told FishUpdate. "This management system would reverse the current policy on discards. Instead of being compelled to dump fish over the side, fishermen would be compelled to land everything. It would become an offence to discard undersize or out of quota fish. Such a system, similar to that currently in place in Norway, would provide two immediate advantages for the industry.

"Undersize fish and other species which previously would have been discarded could be sold to the processing sector, a sector that is desperate for raw material to supply the fishmeal and fish oil industry. The current shortage of sandeel in the North Sea, coupled with a dramatic rise in the price of imported fishmeal from Chile and Peru, has placed a considerable strain on the EU's burgeoning aquaculture sector which relies on fishmeal as a staple diet for farmed fish. The fishmeal industry would be prepared to pay for such un-commercial fish at a price of around £60 a tonne, which is too little to encourage targeting of these species, but too much to encourage continued dumping into the sea, which in any case would be prohibited under the new regulations."